VANCOUVER, Wash. — March 29 marks the 50th anniversary of when the last U.S. troops were pulled from Vietnam. The war lasted almost twenty years.
Clark College in Vancouver honored dozens of Vietnam War veterans during a ceremony Wednesday afternoon. During the event, keynote speakers educated the crowd about their individual stories of Vietnam and their struggles coming home.
Mike Burton served in 1966 when he was 26 years old.
"I saw the war from both the air and the ground," Burton said. "I saw the destruction that war did. I picked up a lot of body parts, I still have some memories that are hard to deal with."
Burton said that during his service, he was in an airplane that was shot down, injuring his back. He said dealing with the pain of war was difficult even after returning — something a lot of veterans don't talk about.
"I survived prescription meds and booze," Burtons said. "I had a hard time with it, finally got out of it, it took me 30 years."
Burton said he went through years of therapy to get past the issues he encountered after serving in Vietnam.
During the ceremony, a tree was dedicated to those who served in the war. Veterans were also given lapel pins that honor their sacrifices.
Larry Smith served when he was 24 years old. He hopes people never forget about the Vietnam War. He says the 50-year anniversary is all about reflection.
"Folks out there still care, the country does care, you bring these things back up and reflect and it's more about patriotism and serving your country and you should not forget that," Smith said.